Just read the book Dark Horse by Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas. Thrilling. They interviewed hundreds of professionals living deeply fulfilled, purposeful, successful lives without following the traditional straight path to their destination. They didn’t climb any academic or corporate ladders to get where they are. But it also wasn’t luck. They achieved excellence by pursuing fulfillment, an unconventionally (and at first glance scornfully entitled) individualized approach made possible by the science of individuality and the emerging era of personalization in technology, health, and economics.
The authors describe a person deeply aware of their own individuality, using their various motivational triggers (micro-motives) in concert to generate the requisite energy to blaze a trail somewhere, carefully engineering their own passion.
These individuals exercise powerful choices based on available opportunities not restricted by Taylorism and the Standardization Covenant, as they call it—the rules of the industrial revolution. Real choices, blue sky stuff, things the “average person” (a myth) wouldn’t succeed at, statistically. But choices that suit their own specific micro motives.
They pursue specific strategies to achieve success in the choice they’ve made based on their strengths, acquired skills, contextually useful abilities. They’re constantly reevaluating and revising, iterating and discovering what’s serving them and what’s not, making adjustments.
And they shun the notion of “destination”—an astronaut, a Nobel Prize, top billing among competitors, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”—in favor of goals they can easily measure and reasonably attain right now. Ten-year plans don’t work for them because too many uncontrollable variables lie between them and the fulfillment of that intention. They make the boldest choice based on available options.
These people are called Dark Horses. The authors claim everyone is capable of this method of actively finding fulfillment because it’s based on individuality, and everyone’s an individual capable of self discovery and self motivation. Everyone can experience fulfillment, and in pursuing it, we get pretty good at doing the things we love. This outwardly looks like success and feels like it too.
They go on to propose a democratic meritocracy in the United States, where institutions commit themselves to enabling and empowering individuals to pursue personal fulfillment instead of the negative-sum game of filling self-serving and self-perpetuating quotas, and where citizens abide by the social contract binding them to pursue their own fulfillment as a duty to society. They cite Thomas Jefferson’s “pursuit of happiness” and the Scottish enlightenment philosophers from whom he drew his perspective as a legal and moral basis for a national economy based on individual excellence achieved in the pursuit of fulfillment.
I keep bouncing between this concept and what I witnessed in Denmark, and what Democratic Play Design promises. It’s not quite Utopia, and it’s not heaven—I still feel something missing I’ve only felt in religious/spiritual situations—but it’s a helluva lot better than the system plaguing America. And it’s based on generosity; people, Dark Horses, who experience excellence and success as a result of pursuing fulfillment demonstrate a burning desire to give others the same opportunity. They start support networks, donate to foundations and charities, and offer their time and expertise to help and encourage others climbing the steep cliff toward fulfillment.
It feels like Democratic Play. I’m trying to get in touch with the authors of Dark Horse for some dialogue.
In the meantime I’ve spoken with dozens of Play advocates, activists, theorists, and practitioners around the world who believe CounterPlay will significantly affect North American society for good and can’t wait to get on board. So I’m drafting a living Visions and Purpose document for others to augment, collaboratively laying the moral foundation for CounterPlay North America even while we negotiate with universities for venue space and donors for support.
Not sure what happens next. But it feels a lot like play, and a lot like pursuing fulfillment.